HERB - What is.......

DianaFiona@aol.com DianaFiona at aol.com
Sun Oct 10 09:06:24 PDT 1999

In a message dated 10/10/1999 10:35:22 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
doroket at yahoo.com writes:

 Many thanks for the answers to spikenard, now here's
 another one for you.....
     murri naqi  ??????
 Dorothy and Theodelinda  8^)
    Once again, a handy website! ;-) Try <A 
Miscellany</A> , which is a great source for food info in general, and 
particularly anything middle eastern in nature......... Here's his take on 


The 13th-century Islamic recipes frequently contain an ingredient translated 
as "murri" or "almori." It is one of a group of condiments that were popular 
in early Islamic cooking and vanished sometime after the fourteenth century. 
Al-Baghdadi gives the following recipes for murri; if you try one and it 
works out, let me know. According to Charles Perry, the translator of the 
Kitab al Tibakhah mentioned above, the penny-royal in these recipes is a 
mis-translation and should be budhaj (rotted barley). He gives the following 
instructions for making budhaj:

"All the recipes concur that budhaj was made from barley flour (or a mixture 
of barley and wheat) kneaded without leaven or salt. Loaves of this dough 
were rotted, generally in closed containers for 40 days, and then dried and 
ground into flour for further rotting into the condiments." 
(First recipe)

Take 5 ratls each of penny-royal and flour. Make the flour into a good dough 
without leaven or salt, bake, and leave until dry. Then grind up fine with 
the penny-royal, knead into a green trough with a third the quantity of salt, 
and put out into the sun for 40 days in the heat of the summer, kneading 
every day at dawn and evening, and sprinkling with water. When black, put 
into conserving jars, cover with an equal quantity of water, stirring morning 
and evening: then strain it into the first murri. Add cinnamon, saffron and 
some aromatic herbs. 
(Second recipe)

Take penny-royal and wheaten or barley flour, make into a dry dough with hot 
water, using no leaven or salt, and bake into a loaf with a hole in the 
middle. Wrap in fig leaves, stuff into a preserving-jar, and leave in the 
shade until fetid. Then remove and dry. 
As you can see, making murri is an elaborate process, and tasting 
unsuccessful experiments might be a hazardous one; Charles Perry, who has 
done experiments along these lines, warns that the products may be seriously 

In addition to the surviving recipes for murri, there are also at least two 
surviving references to what was apparently a fake murri, a substitute made 
by a much simpler process. If one cannot have real murri, period fake murri 
seems like the next best thing. The recipe is as follows:

Byzantine Murri

Kitab Wasf, Sina'ah 52, p. 56, Sina'ah 51, p. 65: Charles Perry tr.

Description of byzantine murri [made] right away: There is taken, upon the 
name of God the Most High, of honey scorched in a nuqrah [perhaps this word 
means 'a silver vessel'], three ratls; pounded scorched oven bread, ten 
loaves; starch, half a ratl; roasted anise, fennel and nigella, two uqiyahs 
of each; byzantine saffron, an uqiya; celery seed, an uqiyah; syrian carob, 
half a ratl; fifty peeled walnuts, as much as half a ratl; split quinces, 
five; salt, half a makkuk dissolved in honey; thirty ratls water; and the 
rest of the ingredients are thrown on it, and it is boiled on a slow flame 
until a third of the water is absorbed. Then it is strained well in a clean 
nosebag of hair. It is taken up in a greased glass or pottery vessel with a 
narrow top. A little lemon from Takranjiya (? Sina'ah 51 has Bakr Fahr) is 
thrown on it, and if it suits that a little water is thrown on the dough and 
it is boiled upon it and strained, it would be a second (infusion). The 
weights and measurements that are given are Antiochan and Zahiri [as] in 

1 ratl = 12 uqiya = 1 pint
1 Makkuk = 7.5-18.8 liters dry measure

The following quantities are for 1/32 of the above recipe. The first time I 
used more bread and the mixture was too thick.

3 T honey
1 1/2 oz bread
1 T wheat starch
2/3 t anise
2/3 t fennel
(2/3 t nigela)
1/4 t saffron
1/3 t celery seed
1/4 oz carob
1/4 oz walnut
1 1/2 oz quince
1/2 c salt in 3 T honey
1 pint water
lemon (1/4 of one)

I cooked the honey in a small frying pan on medium heat, bringing it to a 
boil then turning off the heat and repeating several times; it tasted 
scorched. The bread was sliced white bread, toasted in a toaster to be 
somewhat blackened, then mashed in a mortar. The anise and fennel were 
toasted in a frying pan or roasted under a broiler, then ground in a mortar 
with celery seed and walnuts. The quince was quartered and cored. After it 
was all boiled together for about 2 hours, it was put in a potato ricer, the 
liquid squeezed out and lemon juice added. The recipe generates about 1 1/4 
to 1 1/2 c of liquid. I then add another 1/2 c or water to the residue, 
simmer 1/2 hr -1 hr, and squeeze out that liquid for the second infusion, 
which yields about 1/3 c. A third infusion using 1/3 c yields another 1/4 c 
or so."

    Diana again: As a point of interest, I recall hearing that people who 
made this sauce tasted the final product and decided that it tasted a lot 
like......soy sauce........ ;-) Lazy me, *I'd* probably just use that! (G) 
Oh, and the "garum" (sp?) from Roman food can be replaced by one of the many 
oriental fish sauces, as they are pretty similar, and readily obtainable in 
Asian markets. 

                        Ldy Diana
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